Interviewed by Expedition Extreme

Having returned from Germany in the early hours of Friday last weekend, by mid afternoon I was heading off in my Series II Discovery towards Sweihan, to meet up with the Land Rover Owners Club of the U.A.E. for their first camp out of the year. Whilst there I met up with my friend Shaun Meyer, himself an extremely experienced off road driver & overlander from South Africa, who recently created his YouTube channel; Expedition Extreme. We had a chat about my truck, which can be seen below.

As you can see, we’re seasoned pros who got the whole thing done first time in a single take.
Just a minute, my phone’s ringing….it might be Hollywood. Got to go…….

The day Hellgeth froze over

My truck at Hellgeth Engineering

Was the day I finally got to see my (almost) complete vehicle for the first time.

KrugXP had told me that the complete truck would be ready for inspection on 16th November and since I had to make a business visit to a company called Niverplast in the South East corner of the Netherlands anyway, I was able to combine that visit with a trip to Hellgeth Engineering, to see my vehicle. Fortuitously that meant I could also stop over to see my friend Ard Lampers and his wife Tessa at their lovely house in Elten-Emmerich; Ard of course had been with me in 2014 at Bad Kissingen when we first set eyes on both the Oberaigner chassis and KrugXP cabins, so he was keen to discuss the vehicle in more detail. A few fine German and Dutch beers were consumed that evening, and this Dubai resident was in for a shock the next morning when I had to help Ard scrape the ice off his car windows – not something I’m used to doing any more, having lived in the U.A.E. for over two decades. My own car, being parked closer to the house, needed no de-icing – clearly I learn fast.

My visit to Niverplast was enlivened when I discovered the owner has a hand painted image of his AC Cobra replica on the wall, and the company owns an old VW Camper for promotional purposes; true petrolheads indeed. More significantly, every employee in the company and many of their spouses also individually sponsor children in Kenya, who benefit from the financial support to make their way through difficult lives – my visit to Niverplast was a real eye opener and I will try to meet up with some of those children when I travel through Kenya in the future, to see how they are getting on.

To Hellgeth and back

Next it was onto the German autobahn network for a six hour drive to the beautiful old town of Kronach, where I met up with Joerg and Dima from KrugXP. What a pleasure it was to drive safely, at very high speeds, on roads where every driver checks their mirrors, uses their indicators, has lane discipline and exercises all the neurons in their brain when driving – basically the total opposite of driving in the Gulf, where reckless, selfish driving is the name of the lethal game. The three of us spent the evening chatting about various projects we all have on the go, but I was like a kid on Christmas Eve, desperate to go to sleep so I could get up early the next morning and open my presents – or in this case, see my truck. Next day it was off to Hellgeth, at what seemed like a factory halfway up a mountain in Wurzbach, and as the shutter doors opened, there, in front of me for the first time was “Tim’s Travel Truck”. Damn it felt good to see it as a complete vehicle.

My truck on the weighbridge
My truck on the weighbridge

Dima walked me through the various systems and controls on board, and I was very pleased to see that KrugXP have also put together a comprehensive manual, complete with photos of valves and switches etc, explaining all the on board systems. We spent a while going through that and identifying any snags, then it was off to the weighbridge to determine the finished vehicle’s mass – 5,480Kg for the record, though that’s without the roof rails, spare wheel and tyres, and the grey water tank which had been removed previously and not yet refitted. That was done while Hellgeth were fitting additional 60 + 40L diesel tanks to my truck – these operate via a single pump which empties them into the main fuel tank. The filler cap has been discretely tucked under the nearside rear wheel arch (on the same side as the main filler cap.). I estimate that will give me approximately an 850 – 1000km range. I may still have to carry some jerry cans or flexible diesel tanks if I’m to go a long way off the beaten path.


Big boys’ toys

I then had a guided tour of Hellgeth’s impressive workshops and facilities – they specialise in the maintenance, restoration and adaptation of Unimogs, but also of Haegglund tracked vehicles. You’ll have seen these working hard at ski resorts, at Polar research stations and perhaps traversing lakes and swamps pretty much everywhere around the world. Hellgeth had some wonderful vehicles on site, including an Austin Healey 3000, some old timer Unimogs, a QT Wildcat off road racer, another ‘Mog retrofitted with a huge Zetros engine, the rally Mog in which the company owners Jürgen and Andreas Hellgeth won their class in the 2008 Dreseden – Breslau rally, and an extensive collection of stock Unimog trucks and customers’ overland vehicles in for maintenance and modification. I could have stayed all day but we had to get going, since the following day we were due to visit Excap, a three hour drive away. Excap are to Steyr 1218s what Hellgeth are to Unimogs, so I was looking forward to that too.


Ice, ice baby. Lots of it….

As we left, this time I was not so lucky on the de-icing front, since hours of freezing rain had left my car windows thick with rime ice. Welcome to mountainous Europe in the winter – it reminded me that I was smart to specify a built in diesel pre-heater for the Sprinter’s engine, and that I have three ways of heating the cabin; via the diesel heater, LPG gas, and a heat exchanger drawing heat from the engine cooling system.


On December 2nd, two weeks later than planned, to give the painters time to repair some scratches to the cabin caused during its transport to Germany, my truck will be collected, taken by trailer to Bremerhaven, and shipped by RoRo to Dubai. ETA is January 10th. I can’t wait!!